Miranda Currie – Curious Connections (Old Town, Yellowknife)
Miranda’s voice is clear, melodious and a joy to listen to as she sings a few lines from one of her songs. “When I harvest food from the land. When I pick berries with my own hands.” Miranda, a northern Indigenous artist, uses music, books and filmmaking to educate people about the north, its culture and its language. The goal of her company, Curious Connections, is to create authentic northern Indigenous content that is accessible to children and families.
Miranda is inspired by children and the need for them to see their culture in media. “Kids are pretty amazing and having the opportunity to work with them every day, I saw the need for them to see more of themselves in mainstream media.”
“I think that in order to change that Indigenous narrative in Canada, kids needs to see the good things about our Indigenous culture. I think that a lot of Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids will be able to see all the cool parts about our culture and really be able to celebrate that.”
Miranda is releasing her second children’s album, Tickling the Tiaga, which follows the first album Bouncing in the Boreal. “I use music to help kids learn about Indigenous culture, and specifically language.” Miranda’s latest book Fishing with Ehtsee (Grandfather), which is part of the Sadie series, is written in English but has some vocabulary in Wiìliìdeh dialect.
To expand her ability to reach her target audience, Miranda expanded into film. Miranda was accepted into the National Screen Institute’s IndigiDocs training program. She received the mentoring and funding necessary to create Tails on Ice through this program. This ten-minute documentary premiered at the Cannes Short Film Festival and played at the Yellowknife International Film Festival. The film portrays the first expedition of Ellesmere, her sled dog. “The unique thing about it is that it’s told from Ellesmere’s point of view, and so that helped to make it more accessible to children and families.”
This summer, while playing at Folks on the Rocks, Miranda saw the difference her efforts were making. “The kids were singing along with me. These kids are singing it, Indigenous kids, non-Indigenous kids, families around, and I was just like, that’s the reward. That was such a beautiful moment to see. To see those kids engaging with my song and the lyrics that they represent, we’re moving towards changing that Indigenous narrative in Canada.”
Miranda credits the Akaitcho Business Development Corporation with helping her apply for loans and grants and helping her build financial credibility. “I’m a creative, so learning the more linear financial business part of things has been really beneficial to me.”
Miranda encourages entrepreneurs to persevere and focus on problem-solving. “When everything is seeming like you can’t, problem-solve on your own, call someone up. Put a message on Facebook asking for advice. And for me, anyway, inevitably, someone pops up. Someone says something to get me through that next hurdle. That’s what I learned from my dad. He just kept always going. And I could see the stress that he had, but he always found the solutions in the end to the problems.”
“If I was going to take this journey again, I’d start earlier. I think I hesitated for a long time about my true purpose. I would just be more confident earlier. And I would know this is what I am supposed to be doing. So, create that for yourself. And go forward in a good way.”
Asia Grant – Uasau Soap (Iqaluit, Nunavut)
Asia Grant shares a lesson in building a business: “It’s all about hindsight, in a way, and not making the same mistake over again.” And she would know. Asia has built her company herself, including doing physical renovations to her business space.
“I actually personally built this whole thing,” she describes, “like down to every piece of flooring, all the casing, and I painted every wall.” Her sense of accomplishment shows as she recalls how she started out. “I was in between two jobs, and I had just finished a contract. The space came up and I thought, well, it came up, because I’ve been looking for about two years for the perfect space. So I took it, and then when I had just finished it, I went into labour.”
Family is very important to her. She explains, “I have three daughters, and when I was growing up I was fortunate enough to have a father who said about every crazy idea I had, ‘Okay, go do it.’ So I have four different career paths that I could do, and each one is successful.” And she’s taught her daughters the same philosophy. “I’ve tried to install that in my daughters, that you don’t have to just be one thing—if you pick the wrong thing, you can change your mind. It’s good to be diversified and find everything that is your passion—not just try to find one.”
Asia’s passion shows in the beautiful Black Orchid Spa & Salon. The spa offers a full service menu of all aesthetic services like manicures and pedicures, but also hair cuts, colours and professional stylist options. It offers spa treatments and relaxation massage, as well as products and services geared to men. “We really try to appeal to the whole family,” Asia states. “Managing stress in this uncertain world is key, and we encourage families and small groups to come together. Getting time with loved ones is so important.”
She talks about inspiration she has had along the way. “Growing up, I had a best friend, Tamara, and she is an aesthetician as well. She and her sister, Tiffany, started a business in the basement of her house. She has now been running that business for about 15 years, and those two girls are my biggest inspiration. I saw them kind of come from the bottom all the way up. We go to trade shows together and things like that. It really gets us together, like the family aspect of it. I’ve met so many business women over the years at different trade shows; it’s been really interesting.”
Another support that she talks about is Stó:lō Community Futures, which provides business loans to Indigenous entrepreneurs, but also provides services like business counselling and training. “I didn’t have a lot of obstacles with financing because Stó:lō and the band here worked really well with me to get a little bit of funding.”